Throughout the years, Massachusetts has been home to a number of sports legends. But which ones do fans glorify the most? We wanted to find out.
PlayMA recently surveyed 600 sports fans in Massachusetts, asking them to pick the four greatest professional athletes in Boston history.
Massachusetts has always been a hot bed for great athletes, and the recent rollout of sports betting in Massachusetts has even more attention on the sports world in the Commonwealth.
Let’s take a look at which athletes made the cut in the mythical “Boston Sports Mount Rushmore.”
Boston sports Mount Rushmore
PlayMA surveyed 600 people in Massachusetts earlier this year, asking them a variety of questions related to their fandom. One specific question focused on all-time Massachusetts sports legends.
We asked 600 people: “Which athlete deserves a place on the Mount Rushmore of Massachusetts pro sports?”
The top four vote-getters were as follows:
- Tom Brady – 251 votes
- Bobby Orr – 166 votes
- Larry Bird – 151 votes
- David Ortiz – 120 votes
A Mount Rushmore with one representative from each of the four major pro sports teams. Works out nicely, doesn’t it?
Tom Brady is considered the GOAT among NFL quarterbacks, and Massachusetts sports fans left little doubt on who would be the top vote-getter in this survey.
Brady’s six Super Bowl titles in a New England Patriots uniform are enough to prove he’s the most beloved and greatest Massachusetts sports figure ever.
He finally hung up his shoulder pads this year, and the Patriots are bound to retire his No. 12 in the future, when they can welcome back their popular field leader to Gillette Stadium. It’s not surprising to see TB12 at the top of this list.
No player in Boston Bruins history commands the respect that Bobby Orr does.
In 10 seasons in a Boston sweater, Orr set numerous records. He won the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s MVP three straight years. His bread-and-butter was setting up his teammates, and he led the league in assists five times.
In addition, he won the Norris Trophy as the top defenseman a record eight times, winning the award every season from 1968 to 1975.
His most iconic moment came in 1970, when he flew through the air after scoring the Stanley Cup-winning goal against the St. Louis Blues to give Boston its first NHL title in 29 years. There’s a bronze statue of this moment — Orr’s “flying goal” — outside TD Garden in Boston.
All you have to say is “Larry The Legend” in any sports bar in the Commonwealth, and you’ll ignite a flurry of stories about Larry Bird‘s incredible performances.
The trash-talking forward led the Boston Celtics to three NBA titles, and he was at the center of the epic rivalry with the Lakers (and his personal rivalry with Magic Johnson) in the 1980s.
In an era before the emphasis on 3-point shooting, Bird was the greatest long-range threat in the game. But he was also a remarkable passer, and excelled at every facet of the game.
Despite the many great Celtics over the years, Bird ranks at the head of the class in franchise history.
Most surprising among the results of the PlayMA survey was David Ortiz topping a pair of Red Sox left-fielders.
Big Papi probably benefitted from recency bias as voters picked him over Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski, who had better careers stat-wise as stars for the Sox.
It didn’t hurt that Ortiz was integral in bringing the first World Series title for the Red Sox in 86 years, as part of the famed 2004 team. The wildly popular slugger was also in the middle of the lineup for two more Boston championship teams.
Other vote-getters include Russell, Gronk, Pedro
Rounding out the voting, the next six top vote-getters from the PlayMA survey:
- Bill Russell – 94 votes
- Ted Williams – 70 votes
- Carl Yastrzemski – 41 votes
- Rob Gronkowski – 32 votes
- Paul Pierce – 28 votes
- Pedro Martínez – 24 votes
No NBA player can match Russell’s pedigree as a winner. The big man won an amazing 11 NBA championships, the last two as player/coach of the Celtics.
Williams deserves to be considered among the top four or five best hitters in the history of baseball. He is the last man to hit .400 in a season, and he won six batting titles and two triple crowns. It’s safe to say Teddy Ballgame’s legend is secure by Boston fans.
The man who replaced Williams in left field was Yaz, who spent 23 years in a Red Sox uniform. An understated superstar, Yastrzemski almost single-handedly carried Boston to the 1967 pennant, when he produced his magnum opus: a triple crown season.
As the primary target for Brady for many years, Gronkowski won four Super Bowls as a Patriot. With the possible exception of Ortiz, Gronk is probably the most popular Boston athlete of all-time. Of the top 10 vote-getters in the survey, Gronkowski is the only one who has not been elected to his sport’s Hall of Fame (yet).
Both Pierce and Martínez were eye-popping talents who were critical in delivering celebrated titles to Boston. In 2004 and 2008, the pair were central postseason figures as the Red Sox and Celtics, respectively, were crowned champions.